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The elites depose Islamists in the elections in Morocco

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This is the first Moroccan government since the beginning of the century to face protests in the first few weeks of its appointment. This may be due to the government’s weak legitimacy and the circumstances of its appointment. While the apolitical elites take over the new Moroccan parliament, fears of an emerging “reindeer” economic system are emerging as the conditions of the vulnerable groups continue to deteriorate. Does this signal the death of political life in Morocco or the return of the civil movement?

The triple victory of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) and its allies, the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), in the parliamentary, local and regional elections in Morocco on the 8th traditional opposition parties of the country of Islamists and independent left. Conversely, the Islamist Associated Party for Justice and Development (PJD), which has led the country since the Moroccan spring 2011, suffered the greatest loss, as it lost only 13 seats from the original 125 and lost almost 90 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives.

The RNI and PAM, both traditionally associated with the palace, secured 102 seats and 86 seats, respectively. The victory of the RNI and the appointment of Aziz Akhannouch, one of Morocco’s richest businessmen and close friend of the king, as head of government appears to be beneficial in that it has changed the sociological composition of parliament and replaced politicians with apolitical technocrats from the upper and middle classes first time in four decades.

However, some observers believe that the technocratic takeover will narrow the political space in Morocco. For decades, political parties in Morocco pursued a policy of openness and pragmatic approaches that went beyond their ideological differences and enabled patriotic, intellectual and competent leftists and royalists to take turns succession despite their modest public influence from the 1970s to the 1990s to stand in the Prime Minister’s position in view of their conservative or critical stance on the king’s authoritarianism and their social democratic and left-wing agendas. In addition, the technocrats will benefit from the lack of a strong and solid opposition in parliament.

The elections were the first in nearly two decades in which “dirty money” and government interventionism played a major role in determining the winner. The royalists and their supporters, mainly the Home Office, mobilized their forces in support of the RNI and its allies against the Islamists and sometimes against the left, who openly criticize the palace. When the RNI won, they publicly congratulated themselves on the victory, placing the Home Office in an uncomfortable and embarrassing position. In a widespread post on social media, their coordinating committee bragged about the effective role they played in overthrowing the Islamic party, saying that they made sure the government would inevitably fail in the elections.

They also proclaimed that the fate of the vanquished was “the trash can of history,” expressed satisfaction with the results of the polls, and demanded that the new government keep its promise to reward them with improving their social conditions and granting administrative powers to grants .

When one of the commentators suggested that we be neutral, the Coordinating Committee replied: “We are not neutral, we have been told to vote for the Liberals!” 1

In addition, evidence of ballot tampering emerged for the first time in two decades. According to the High Planning Committee, two thirds of the registered voters are residents of villages and desert towns, while the proportion of the rural population in the eligible age group does not exceed 33.9 percent, which leads to increased distrust. Many wonder why the Interior Ministry should bother to register the inhabitants of the desert cities and increase their proportion to 94 percent of all eligible voters?

The clear answer is that the government has gone to enormous lengths to persuade and coerce the villagers simply because they are inferior to authority and more concerned with maintaining their legitimacy.2 Also, voters in rural areas such as northern Morocco are less politicized, more conservative and more likely to trust local elites and see them as their best representatives in Rabat. As for city dwellers, in the past they voted for the opposition parties, be they leftist or Islamist, depending on the circumstances.

In addition, for the first time since the beginning of this century, electoral bureau records in major cities were not shared with party officials, particularly the PJD. This is clearly against the law and raises doubts about the integrity of the election results, especially as the public still remembers the scandal surrounding the 2016 general election, when the JDP announced the results to the Home Office and sparked a riot that led to the Political career practically ended of a former minister.

Analysts explain the crushing defeat of the PJD not only through the possible manipulation of the election results or internal pressure that prevented many party representatives from running for office (the number of candidates for the local elections in 2021 is only 53). Percent of candidates for the 2015 elections). Other important issues also play a role here, including the fact that most parties with a large social base under the leadership of the government are losing much of their popularity because they cannot carry out promised reforms because the government in Morocco has no real power, to bring about significant change. When they become part of the regime, they also lose the moral splendor that the opposition normally enjoys of being the defenders and protectors of civil society in their sectoral struggles.

The other and more weighty reason for the loss is that the PJD’s actions during its tenure alienated both secular and religious sections of society. By signing the Abraham Agreement, which normalized Morocco’s relations with Israel, they aroused the general ire of patriotic Moroccans, and when they legalized cannabis they appeared to shed their Islamic identity entirely, doubling the anger of the conservative society that took the action viewed the party’s core ideological position as treason.

Another possible reason is the new electoral law, which was passed to allow smaller parties to be represented in parliament. Many observers described the law as a “political move” aimed at reducing the representation of the popular parties and placing them under the palace’s “electoral authoritarianism”.

Now that weeks have passed since the elections and the appointment of the new government, we can say that the palace’s hope that Aziz Akhannouch will reverse the rule of the Islamists and project a better image of the government will not go far. Social media burned when he was appointed and several attacks were directed against the billionaire businessman who, for many, represents the reindeer economy and the illegal marriage between power and wealth; a concept that the Moroccan Spring rebelled against.

Akhannouch is no stranger to public anger, however. In 2018, his fuel distributor was targeted by a boycott, prompting parliament to launch an investigation into competition in the fuel market. The Parliament’s report allegedly concluded that his company and two others had made a so-called “immoral profit” that raised approximately $ 2 billion. As Minister of Agriculture in the previous government, Akhannouch allowed farmers to use butane gas on a large scale for irrigation. This was viewed as irresponsible behavior as butane was subsidized with public money for domestic use in order to preserve forest wealth and to support families with limited resources.

Critics of the prime minister and even the head of PAM, who is a member of the new government, have expressed concern about the serious conflict of interests that Akhannouch’s new position brings with it, especially since his holding company controls the hydrocarbon market, including gas, and is benefiting greatly from it of public grants.

The Competition Council, an independent constitutional body that shares these concerns, recommended in an official report that these funds be returned indirectly to the state treasury. These recommendations immediately sparked an uproar against the council and its president, who was removed from office after being insulted and defamed by media close to the authorities.

There is no question that Aziz Akhannouch had a strong political presence prior to taking office, but as he takes his new position at the center of the Moroccan political scene, questions arise about his ability to maintain that power. Only the future will tell whether his new position will bring stability and prosperity, or fuel a public movement against his controversial behavior in the past that could undermine the legitimacy of the regime that flourished after the Arab Spring.

Maati Monjib is a Moroccan historian, political scientist and human rights activist.

Remarks

1 The author has a photocopy of the answer

2 Moroccan Fellah Defender of the Throne, Presses de la FNSP, Paris, 1976

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